NEWS ABOUT FISH AND YOUR BRAIN
The hot “new” category in the food industry is “functional foods”. We consumers are becoming convinced that by eating certain products can prevent or treat our ailments, according to presentations at a recent meeting of The Natural Marketing Institute's (NMI) in Las Vegas, Nevada. Steve French, executive vice president and managing partner of NMI, for example, cited Coca-Cola's opening of the Coca-Cola Research Center for Chinese Medicine at the China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences in Beijing.
Rhona Applebaum, vice president, chief scientific and regulatory officer of Coca-Cola, said at the time of the facility’s opening last October:” This collaboration will ultimately help us bring the insights and benefits of traditional Chinese medicine to consumers all over the world…"As the world's largest beverage company, we can add global reach and world-class marketing skills to help promote Chinese wisdom in preventive holistic health through new and innovative beverages." NMI’s French says because very large food and beverage companies such as Coca-Cola tend to follow promising trends rather than set them, the link between healing and food looks to become further entrenched in the consumer’s mind.
Using foods to prevent and treat disease is not new, of course. Therapeutic uses of food dates back at least several thousand years to ancient Egypt where onions were recommended to induce sleep; almonds and cabbage to prevent hangovers; lemons to protect against the evil eye, and salt to stimulate passion. Who hasn’t heard that eating oysters will enhance one’s sexual desire and performance? This may be just a myth, but in fact oysters are rich in zinc and scientists have discovered that a zinc deficiency interferes with sexual function.
My husband, Dr. Arthur Winter, Director of New Jersey’s Neurological Institute, Livingston, NJ, and I wrote a book, Smart Food: Diet and Nutrition for Maximum Brain Power first published by St. Martin’s Press in 1988 and now back in print by ASJA Books. In it we point out that if your mother told you fish is brain food and she may have been right because fish contains compounds that can:
· Decrease blood pressure in persons with normal and moderately high blood pressure
· Decrease blood viscosity
· Decrease blood triglycerides
· Decrease vascular response to norepinephrine, a hormone that can stimulate anxiety
· Decrease irregular heartbeats
· Decrease cardiac toxicity of cardiac glycosides (sugars)
· Decrease stickiness of platelets, a type of blood cell that helps prevent bleeding by causing blood clots to form.
· Increase platelet survival.
Now new studies from New Zealand, the Netherlands, and Norway all suggest significant benefits of fish consumption, specifically the omega-3 fatty acid content, and cognitive health. Dutch researchers, led by Carla Dullemeijer from Wageningen University, used data from a trial, involving 807 men and women (average age 60). A cross-sectional analysis studied all 807 participants, while a longitudinal analysis only focused on the 404 participants in the placebo group. The researchers reported increased levels of omega-3 fatty acids in the blood were associated with a 69 percent less decline in reaction time and a 60 percent lower decline in complex cognition speed over three years. Since earlier studies have shown that fish intake is associated with better brain function, the researchers are now seeking what components in fish makes it good for the cognition besides Omega 3 fatty acids since fish contais a good supply of niacin and perhaps other factors that may benefit brain function.
Mercury and other pollutants that may adversely affect the brain can also be in fish so the complete picture of fish and the brain is still in deep water. Stay tuned.